Workers who are exposed to heat are at risk of developing heat stress, which can lead to more life-threatening conditions.

Prevention of heat stress is best accomplished through proper planning and preparation and by using common sense. Modifying the workload, re-scheduling work to cooler times of the day, engaging mechanical aids to minimise physical exertion, providing workers with access to drinking water, shaded rest areas and regular breaks will help minimise the risk of heat illness. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to sufficiently cool itself, can be incapacitating and even fatal.

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat stroke - a life-threatening illness in which the body’s internal temperature may rise above 41° C in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can happen after several days of exposure to high temperatures and not enough fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse. If not treated, it can turn into heat stroke.
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise. Cramps occur in the abdomen, arms, or legs.

Heat stress is not the only danger of working during a heatwave, as hot working conditions can cause other health and safety issues. These can include the loss of grip while handling objects due to sweaty hands; mistakes, slips or falls due to heat fatigue or fainting – possibly leading to head injuries; not following proper safe work procedures; and burns suffered from contact with hot surfaces or substances.

Read our report on heat stress and heat stress control plan.

For additional information and guidance material, visit these helpful links:

SafeWork NSW

NSW Health - Beat the Heat